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Betsy Shaw

Spelling Lessons With A Potty-Mouthed Mom

I get so tired of behaving sometimes. If there is any part of motherhood that gets tedious real quick, it’s the pressure to be mature, all the time.

Screw that. Just thinking about it makes me want to put a little Jack Daniels in my tea.

But I already got my cheeky-mom fix tonight, much to my older daughter’s dismay. Her name is Esther. She’s ten. I sometimes call her “the Warden”. She’s gotten particularly bossy since my husband, her daddy, hasn’t been around. He’s a Brit with a lapsed green card. We’re working on getting him back from France where we were all living together happily, but not ever after, just a year ago. Now we’re back in America and he’s waiting for an immigrant visa so he can come home.

Esther has been doing a good job filling his shoes as the stern disapprover of all things uncouth and silly. It’s not like she and my husband are no fun at all, it’s just that sometimes they have a tendency towards ill-timed righteousness.

Anyway, I’ve been haunted lately by reports from my youngest daughter, Isla’s, teacher. Apparently Isla is lagging a bit behind her classmates when it comes to letter recognition and beginning letter sounds. I’ve been doing my best to convince myself that any delay Isla may be showing is most likely due to the fact that her first two years of formal schooling were entirely in French. She’s a bit confused, that’s all.

And if that’s not the reason she’s not catching on to the alphabet as fast as her peers, then, well, the only excuse left is it’s all my fault. And, honestly, what isn’t my fault these days? Ian isn’t around to blame. It’s my fault the house is a mess. It’s my fault my kids average 13 tardies per marking period, and it’s my fault we’re out of Kleenex again.

So I’ve been trying to spend more time with Isla, working on her spelling and sounding out words. And tonight, just as we were going up to bed, she asked me to carry her.

“No I can’t carry, you,” I said, as I grabbed the usual armload of accumulated debris from around the living room. “My hands are too full of crap to carry you. That’s crap, Isla,” I said, “C-R-A-P, crap! Got it, Isla. You should spell that for your teacher.”

Esther, who was on the toilet off the mudroom, stuck her head out the door and said, “Mummy!” in her most indignant voice. “What?” I said. “I’m just giving Isla an impromptu spelling lesson.”

Esther rolled her eyes at me and shut the door again.

Isla and I proceeded upstairs where Isla sat on the toilet and I roamed around trying to find a home for all the assorted crap I had carried up with me. I could hear Isla, with the door open, saying, “K-errrr-aahhhh-pppp!”

That’s right, Isla, I said. “What makes a Kkkkk sound?”
“C,” she said.
“Right. What makes a ‘errrr’ sound?”
“Errr, err, err-R,” she said.
“Right. What makes an ‘aahhh’ sound?”
“Aahh… A,” she said.
“Good, now ppppp, what makes a ‘pppp’ sound?”
“Pppp-peee!” she said. “C-r-a-p…. Keraaaahpppp!”
“Right, Isla,” I said. “You are a not a crap speller. You are a terrific speller.”
“KKkk-errrrr-aahhhh-pppp….. Keraaahp!” she said again.

I giggled.

“Crap means stuff,” she said, swinging her legs back and forth on the toilet like she does. “And it also means poop,” she said, grinning. “And it also means….. Kerrraaaahhhp!,” she yelled at the top of her voice, feigning anger.

She’s a quick study, that girl.

“That’s right, Isla,” I said. And just then I noticed Esther, the Warden, at the door.
“Mummy!” she said again, in that voice again.
“What?” I said. “I was just about to explain to her that some people think crap is a bad word so she can’t use it at school.”
“She shouldn’t use it at home either,” Esther said. “It’s not a nice word. Why are you even teaching it to her.”
“I’m just kidding around, Essie,” I said. “Being proper all the time can get boring. Can’t a mom have a little fun?”

She sighed and marched out of the room.

“She’s just like her father,” I whispered to Isla and we laughed.

But I can’t hold it against Esther for being so grumpy. You see, as with everything, it’s my fault. I let her stay up too late last night.

Oh crap.

THE AUTHOR

Betsy has been blogging for a seeming century-- ever since she retired from her career as a professional snowboarder and found herself stranded in a remote living room in Vermont with a baby on her breast. She still doesn't get the point of blogging. When she got tired of writing about her experiences of motherhood in Vermont, she ...

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